This Saturday night in Las Vegas, "Vicious" Victor Ortiz puts his WBC Welterweight world title on the line against the modern boxing great Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Mayweather comes into the 12-round bout as a huge favorite, but many fans and pundits alike are not writing off the young Ortiz, who at 24 is already ranked as a “top two” welterweight by Ring Magazine, ESPN and more.
The primary concern for Mayweather fans is ring rust. The Las Vegas resident, aged 34, has not fought for 16 months since his battle with Shane Mosley. In fact, comparing the two fighters’ activity over the past five years speaks volumes. In the last five years, Mayweather has fought a mere five times, 58 rounds in total. Alternatively, the champion Ortiz has fought 17 times in five years, amassing 92 rounds.
Mayweather’s lack of action could be due to constant negotiation talks starting and stopping with the Manny Pacquiao camp in trying to create the superfight that fans have long yearned for, but this fight does pose many questions of Mayweather.
Ortiz’s nickname of "Vicious" is very appropriate for his style of fighting. The Mexican-American boasts 22 knockouts from his 29 wins, with half of those coming within the first two rounds of action. It’s not as if the young Ortiz has earned this reputation from fighting cans either. The Kansas native has faced great world champions such as Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana, Lamont Peterson, Vivian Harris and Nate Campbell.
Mayweather is known to be a master tactician and slickster. His elusive counter-punching style draws critics from some circles who say it’s boring, but no one can doubt its effectiveness. Mayweather relishes the prospect of fighting wide, loopy punchers like Ricky Hatton as they’re easier to snipe and avoid from a distance, due to the nature of their punches leaving their mugs out open. Mayweather’s last few fights have also pitted him against wily, game veterans who were in their thirties, including Mosley, Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya.
But Ortiz is neither old nor a wide puncher. Every punch from "Vicious" is straight, and before you know it his hands are back up by his head blocking. Ortiz also has a blinding quickness that Mayweather has not faced for a long time, though very few are as quick as "Money" himself. They say the first sign of a boxer aging is in his legs, and Mayweather always keeps himself in outstanding condition.
Ortiz also happens to be a southpaw. Mayweather has always seemed to have found southpaws tough to work out, as seen in his fight against DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley, who wobbled Mayweather a stinging right-hook in their bout. All boxers get hit—it’s what boxing is all about—but with a fighter so elusive and scarcely hit as Mayweather, you do notice the rare occasion when the man is hurt. Mayweather also found it hard to decipher the left-handed Zab Judah in their bout in 2006.
As with any serious champion, fans and critics alike will try to find flaws in their game. But in reality, Floyd Mayweather isn’t as world-renowned as he is today for being just a good fighter. He is one of the best boxers around in this era, perhaps one of the best of all time, and he is quite possibly the only man on this planet with the ability to stop Pacquiao’s current tear through boxing’s lower weight classes.
Ortiz has never faced a fighter of this magnitude. And while he has fought a lot of good fighters in his short 24 years, an occasion such as this—what with all of the promotion, HBO programming, media work in London and the fact that he is facing Floyd Mayweather—who knows how he will feel on the day of the biggest fight of his life.
Ortiz is one game fighter and has serious experience beyond his years. But could this occasion be too much for Ortiz? Mayweather has been out for 16 months but has fought, and beat, the best there is. But has ring rust set in for Mayweather? One thing for certain is that this sure will be one hell of a fight.